As personal technology becomes increasingly integrated into our daily lives, Joel Klein is determined to bring it more seamlessly into the classroom. The former chancellor of the New York City Department of Education is now the CEO of Amplify Education, the educational arm of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. This spring, students in a dozen school districts across the United States are walking into classrooms, taking their seats and instead of pulling out their books, powering on their Amplify Tablets. The 10-inch Android-based tablet, chock full of content, reference tools and software specifically designed for K-12 teachers and students, is Klein’s company’s latest initiative.
Klein believes that the reasonably priced Amplify Tablet (starting at $299 with a data subscription that is generally paid by school districts) will make it affordable for schools to provide computers to all students. More importantly, Klein argues that the functionality built into the tablet will lead to individualized and, as a result, more effective learning. His critics, including some leaders of teachers unions, say the tablet is an excuse to increase class size. Others think the whole venture is fueled by money rather than a sincere desire to affect change. Read what Klein has to say in the interview below.
In March, you said, “Technology has revolutionized the world, but not the classroom.” What do you mean by this?
I never thought it was about technology. In other words, giving a kid a computer in and of itself is not going to change the educational outcomes. I am much more focused on technology improving the teaching and learning experience. If that happens, then I think technology can be a real asset.
In the large sense, and I’ll quote one of my colleagues, it is not that teachers need to learn more about technology, it is that technology needs to learn more about teaching. I think that is the powerful differentiator at this point in history.
Why have schools kept computers in computer labs, separated from regular classrooms, for so long now?
First of all, we didn’t have many of them. Schools were buying computers one-to-ten [one computer for every ten students], so they put them in a lab, rather than integrate them in a learning space. The lab, even figuratively, in terms of what it was connoting, was something out there, different, weird.
Second of all, I don’t think people thought through what we and others are now thinking through, which is how to support schools in going through the change process. When I was in New York City, there were literally schools that still had their computers in the basement unpacked. That’s how convinced they were that they weren’t going to be impactful.
How is the device specifically designed for K-12 students and teachers?
Giving a kid a tablet, while that’s a fine thing, I don’t think that will change the quality of a child’s education, because it won’t change the quality of that child’s learning experience. Whereas if you look at our tablet, what you see is something designed with the teacher and student in mind.